William Cowper, depression and the attempted suicides

Vaclav's picture

I must share something of William Cowper, an Evangelical poet in 1700s, and a very good friend of John Newton, an x-slave trader who wrote the wonderful and well known hymn "Amazing Grace".

William suffered greatly from melancholy, depression, and many doubts in his Christian life. And he even attempted suicide about three times, but was found and rescued.

Through all his discouragements came the most wonderful poems and hymns, like "God moves in a mysterious way"; "Sometimes a light surprises"; "O for a closer walk with God"; and the famous "There is a fountain filled with blood". These are some of the most richest of hymns ever composed - clear in Biblical theology of the gospel. Here is an extract from his hymn "God moves in a mysterious way" - "Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head".

William was so sure that Christ Jesus died for the sins of the world, so sure that Jesus is God, so sure of the Scriptures to be the Word of God, but always doubting his own salvation. His last poem "The Castaway" was full of despair.
"But a relative who loved him well says, "that from the moment that his spirit passed until the coffin was closed, the expression into which his countenance had settled was that of calmness and composure, mingled as it were with holy surprise." " This is taken from "Hymns and Hymn Makers" by Duncan Campbell, 1898, pp.55,56.

William Cowper will be one of those with a 'big surprise' who at the judgment day will ask Jesus, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,..." and to them Jesus said, "but the righteous (They're those who were declared righteous by faith in Jesus trusting his obedience in their place, and not because they trusted their own righteous deeds. But they're those who fed, clothed, gave drink to their brothers and sisters in Christ who were in need, because they belonged to Jesus) will go into eternal life.”

Someone has said that a bird pressed against thorns sings the most sweetly. And this is so true of William Cowper, and many others who have touched the lives of others through their suffering, in Jesus Christ.

And in the words of William Cowper, "Absence of occupation [of the mind, as in today's false understanding of meditation where people try to empty or absence their mind of everything] is not rest. The mind that's vacant [empty of truth and reality in Jesus] is a mind distressed".

So, here's a good advice fro the Apostle Paul form all of us, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”. (Philippians 4:4-9)